If you listen to our political leaders, one theme you will hear repeatedly is that we need to "Reform" or "overhaul" some function of the government. Right now we are fighting over how to best reform the "Health Care System". The President has also said that, when we have time, we need to overhaul and reform the "Immigration System". Everyone knows we need to overhaul and reform the Internal Revenue Service and our Tax System. Every time we turn around one of our politicians is pointing out how we need to overhaul and reform something. And they are right - but they are missing what it is that really needs to be overhauled and reformed - Congress itself!
Our Constitution provides us a frame work for the best, most effective form of government a free society can have. The problem is that over the years our politicians have used every dirty little trick they could think of to usurp and circumvent the intentions of the founding fathers when they wrote the Constitution.
In a government which prides itself on being "Of, for and by the people" our politicians have made it almost impossible for the people to even know what is happening in Congress. They hide behind laws which they themselves have passed to keep us from seeing how deals are made and how things are done. They write laws which make accepting bribes and gifts in exchange for favors illegal -and then we allow them to define what a gift or bribe is. And, what is worse, we allow them to regulate themselves! When they want to pass a law that they know we do not like and will be angry if they support - they find ways to make it self approving (i.e., pay raises for Congress go into effect unless they specifically vote against it!).
All of the things they are telling us need to be overhauled and reformed do indeed need attention -But until we overhaul and reform Congress - until we force them to stick to the Constitution, not only to the letter of the Constitution but to it's very meaning and spirit - every change we attempt will be ingrained with the corruption that already exists.
Where do we start? Transparency. We hear a lot about "putting transparency" back into government. How many times did candidate Obama tell us that while he was running for office? Have we seen it? How many times have they held closed door meetings to discuss Health Care Reform and, in spite of the promise to put everything on CSPAN for all to see, how many times has that happened?
So, this is where we start. Make them go transparent. Put every meeting and every deal and every amendment out there for everyone to see. The watchful eye of the American public will go a long way in taking the word "dirty" out of politics. It is not enough by itself, but with it we will begin to see who is really doing what. When the actions of our politicians do not match their promises, we'll know what to do about it.
The next thing we do is add some real consequences for betraying the public trust. We pass laws that say that any person working for the government and accepting tax dollars to provide a service to the people -and that includes politicians, administrators, judges, police, firemen, dog catchers - everyone that takes tax dollars, upon conviction of any crime gets an mandatory jail sentence of not less than 1 year in addition to whatever other sentence they get from committing the offense. Simply put, we hold anyone with the public trust to a higher standard.
The third thing we do is stop letting these people self-regulate. Disband the Congressional Ethics Committees and replace them with an Independent Special Prosecutor who also has the power to investigate misbehavior by any public servant, from the President down. This "special prosecutor" could be appointed by the President and serve a term of 6 years and could only serve in this office for one term.
Whatever happens, whatever we decide to do - the point is that until Congress itself is fixed, the corruption, dirty tricks and lack of standards and accountability will continue to prevent a lasting and satisfactory solution to our problems.